City of Penticton looks to outsource grant process

The city receives upwards of 70 detailed grant applications, according to Chief Financial Officer Colin Fisher.

The City of Penticton has again fielded a proposal to outsource some of the administrative burden of dealing with grant proposals, in this case by asking the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan to lend a hand.

The city receives upwards of 70 detailed grant applications, according to Chief Financial Officer Colin Fisher.

“To say that it is a time consuming program would be an understatement,” said Fisher. “It is approximately a week of my own time, and a week of a staff member’s time. Overall, it is a large overall task.”

Fisher said the administration of the program has reached a point where they don’t have resources to keep up with all the tasks and still meet the timelines associated with the grants.

Fisher recommended the city enter into an agreement with the CFSO to administer the portion of the grants program earmarked for non-standing grant requests for not-for-profits. Standing grants, like those for Peachfest and a few other events the city regularly supports, would still be dealt with by council. The agreement, he said, would be expected to start with the 2017 grant year.

Aaron McRann said there would be efficiencies from the perspective of the grant applicants. Most non-profits, he explained, apply to both the city and the CFSO for grants, so not having to fill out a second set of forms or meet different criteria would probably be beneficial. McRann added that the idea is in very preliminary stages.

“I think it is something I am open to discussing with the city. I know there are many other communities in Canada that leverage their community foundation for a portion of their grant process,” said McRann. “Over the years, we have done several short-term granting cycles for them.”

City council was divided on the concept.

“I don’t think it is fair for them to make those decisions. I do have a problem with delegating this responsibility to anyone else,” said Coun. Tarik Sayeed, citing possible differences in criteria between the two groups as one stumbling block.

Coun. Judy Sentes pointed out that only city council has the discretion necessary to be flexible about approving grants.

“Staff is looking for a way to ease some of the pain, it is a difficult process. But I have been elected to take some of the pain,” said Sentes. “I want to be able, as a councillor, to still have discretion.”

McRann agrees that the CFSO isn’t ready to jump in with the proposal.

“We, as an organization, aren’t sure it works for us, just the same as the city isn’t sure it works for them. It’s a point of discussion,” said McRann. “I think both sides have justifiable concerns that have to be answered before it would work.  I don’t think there is any doubt that in the big scheme of things, the individual charities would have an easier time.”

A motion to delay discussion of the proposal until council’s second regular meeting in Jan. 2016 passed 4 to 3, with Couns. Sayeed, Sentes and Campbell Watt opposed.